Ghotmeh is a rising star in architecture, best known for this summer’s Serpentine Pavilion in London, inspired by a shared table, and the 2016 award-winning Estonian National Museum, a wedge-shaped glass building on a former Soviet airfield. The Hermès team was so impressed by the museum’s design (completed while Ghotmeh was a partner at Dorell Ghotmeh Tane / Architects) they invited her to submit a plan for the workshop’s competition in 2019. The 35-member jury unanimously chose her proposal, which is rooted in classical design, with
a series of Roman aqueduct-like arches for the façade as well as the interior. Their forms, Pierre-Alexis said, “echo the movement of the thread, and handbag handles. There’s a dialogue between the function and the structure.”
Ghotmeh describes her approach as “the archeology of the future,” meaning how a building emerges in its environment and from the memory of its location. How apt, given that during the initial dig, workers discovered a Paleolithic campsite. Eventually, archeologists recovered 3,000 artifacts, including flint tools likely used for leatherwork, and stones to make needles. “What chance to choose such a place for our leather workshop,” Pierre-Alexis said.
To give the Maroquinerie de Louviers a bit of artistic flair, Hermès tapped French artist Emmanuel Saulnier to create a sculpture of seven 10-feet-long needles in sleek stainless steel, suspended above the entrance in stirrup leathers sewn by Hermès bridle makers. Pierre-Alexis described the artwork as a “symbolic gesture to represent this workshop now where there had been one so long ago.”
When the workshop is at full capacity, it will employ 260 artisans, handcrafting made-to-order saddles—including for French Olympic gold medalist eventer Astier Nicolas—as well as classic Kelly handbags. Many of the workers will come from the Louviers École Hermès des savoir-faire, an education facility that opened in town last year. As Hermès executive chairman Axel Dumas told the workshop’s artisans before cutting the ribbon: “We are making beautiful objects in beautiful surroundings.” hermes.com